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March 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Bezos recovers historic NASA rocket engines, one coming to Seattle

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is coming home from an incredible fishing trip with a trophy to display in Seattle.

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Bezos today announced that his expedition to recover the F-1 engines from NASA’s Apollo mission was a success, with two of the huge engines recovered from more than 14,000 feet deep in the Atlantic. His online report included spectacular images of the engines and other components that look like fantastic works of art or props from a science-fiction movie.

The engines were jettisoned after providing the initial liftoff for the Apollo 11 mission, which took Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969. Bezos last year said that watching the mission on TV as a 5-year-old “was a big contributor to my passions for science, engineering and exploration.”

NASA owns the engines but has supported Bezos’ project effort to recover them and put them on display. His plan was to get one into the Smithsonian and, if more than one was found, display another at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden endorsed the plan last year.

The Seattle museum is planning to display the engine in its Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, alongside the Space Shuttle Trainer and the Charon, a takeoff and landing platform built and tested by Blue Origin, a Kent-based space company financed by Bezos.

NASA has agreed to the plan, according to Mike Bush, the museum’s marketing director, who was more thrilled than most when Bezos posted the update from his expedition this morning.

“We haven’t heard back from him yet, but we’re pretty excited at the news,” he said.

The expedition used remotely controlled underwater vehicles, with experts who worked on recovering parts of the Titanic. Bezos has been aboard the recovery ship, though he spent a significant part of the trip doing work and email in his cabin.

The update was posted as the recovery ship headed toward Cape Canaveral in Florida.

“We’ve seen an underwater wonderland — an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program,” Bezos wrote.

A few more images:

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Here are some details of the F-1 engine and Saturn V rocket, from NASA:

-   The F-1, built by Rocketdyne and developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, holds the record as the most powerful single-chamber, single-nozzle rocket engine ever flown.

-  Each F-1 engine generated 1.5 million pounds of thrust. (More than the three main engines of the later space shuttle combined.)

-  Each Saturn V first stage had five F-1 engines, for a total maximum thrust of 7.5 million pounds at liftoff.

-  A fueled Saturn V weighed 6.2 million pounds, equivalent to 2,200 automobiles.

-  The Saturn V was 363 feet tall, the height of a modest skyscraper.

-  Each F-1 engine bell was 12 feet wide.

-  The Saturn V was propelled by kerosene and liquid oxygen chilled to minus-300 degrees Fahrenheit.

-  The cluster of five F-1 engines burned 15 metric tons of propellant per second, a rate that would drain a backyard swimming pool in 10 seconds.

-  The rocket boosted more than 130 tons of payload into Earth orbit – the weight of 1,500 people. More than 50 tons eventually made it to the moon.

-  The first stage lifted the Saturn V to a height of 36-42 miles, then separated and fell into the ocean. The second stage took over from there. The third stage completed the journey into Earth orbit, then was reignited to propel the lunar lander and command/service modules – and the astronauts – toward the moon.

-  The first Saturn V flew unmanned in 1967. The last flew the Skylab space station into orbit in 1973. All 13 launches were successful.

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